Pearls on a Branch: Arab Stories Told by Women in Lebanon Today by Najla Khoury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed this collection of stories very much. Reading the introduction prior to the stories is what I would recommend (I'm a person who usually saves an intro until I've finished a book due to spoilers and wanting to form my own opinions, but in this case, it provided a lot of context and understanding of the texts I was about to encounter.)
These stories were collected from actual women living in Lebanon and Syria, and Najla Khoury often visited the women multiple times, because she found that the telling of the story changed based on who the audience happened to be. This was particularly the case if the audience was of mixed company, because some of these stories are really more for women, with innuendo and teasing that wouldn't be as appropriate in front of men (in these households.) So some of the stories should be seen as conglomerate rather than transcriptions, but I do think they benefit from this treatment.
I loved the pre-story that is often told in rhyme, the blessing, the rote "true or not true" statement (it made me think about when I studied Turkish and there is an entire storytelling tense to allow for fictional "truths.") Many of the stories have to do with marriage, and often deception, changing the appearance, and Sultans or Princes who marry for the wrong reasons. I was pleased to see stories where the ending was a woman getting to marry who she wanted to in the first place. There are a lot of animal stories (anthropomorphic) but one story also has a singing turd, so there is a lot of humor too.
I understand that only 30 were translated into English for this collection, and I hope they do a second volume.
Thanks to Archipelago Press who provided an eARC of this title through Edelweiss. It came out April 17, 2018.
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